“Historia Adolescente En Medio De La Nada”
By Yasmin Nouh
A sympathetic portrait of the desires and dangers inherent in adolescence comes forth in the 2006 film featured in the Latin American Film Festival’s “Historia Adolescente En Medio De La Nada,” directed by Alexis Dos Santos. The English title proclaims it to be simply “Glue,” however, anything but simple comes to mind when one burgeons into his or her teenage years. In a small town in the vast, suburban and yellowish Patagonia region of Argentina, Lucas (Nahuel Perez Biscayart), a gangly 15-year-old filled with raging hormones, boredom and family alienation, hangs out with his fit best friend, Nacho (Nahuel Viale), and bespectacled peer Andrea (Ines Efron). The threesome (which actually happens later on in the movie) copes with the trials of adolescence by listening to depressing rock music, getting high and getting off, individually and with each other.
Although it is not much of a story, most of “Glue” consists of awkward incidences, typical of pubescent experimentation. In the beginning, the attempts made by Lucas to vie for the attention of Nacho and to woo Andrea contribute to the portrayal of a youthful hunger for love and lust.
Andrea invites Lucas and Nacho into her house for chocolate milk and idle chatter in a scene where all of the story elements of the film come together: Lucas puts on a cat mask as a pretext to cuddle with his male friend, before Andrea comes up to her bedroom to serve the two chocolate milk. With a potent mix of amused embarrassment and drawn out silences, all three perfectly embody that limbo stage of development in one’s life. Unsurprisingly, sex is uppermost in their minds, and Lucas’ unclear attraction to Nacho fuels the kinds of prankish games beloved by young teens worldwide, such as wrestling for an oddly long amount of time.
Andrea is also trying to figure out how to release her newfound desires, and in one scene she uses a glass shower door to practice kissing her fantasy lover. Unwilling to participate in a family dinner where his estranged father will be present, Lucas convinces Nacho to join him at his father’s empty apartment in the city of Neuquen. Once there, a glue-sniffing marathon leads to a little fooling around.
An interesting fact about the film is that the script consists of only a 17-page storyline, and the majority of acting is improvised around the plot to deliver a certain level of authenticity and youthful awkwardness.
“Como Mariposas en La Luz”
By Tara Pak
A fish gutter, cart pusher, low class gardener, windshield wiper, living statue and illegal immigrant smuggler—while all these occupations may seem very different, they document the journey of a young-hearted man who refuses to accept the normalcy of the lower-class experience in the film, “Como Mariposas en La Luz,” one of the last showings at UC Irvine’s Latin American Film Festival.
Diego (Lucas Ferraro), who prioritizes idealistic dreams over maturity, struggles to escape his mediocre life in Argentina. Inspired by his grandfather’s romantic outlook on life, Diego longs for adventure and to “befriend the moon,” which nearly sabotages his chances of leaving the country. Refusing to open his eyes to the reality of Argentina’s tumultuous economic crisis, he aimlessly wanders around town, occasionally finding temporary work. Though his own financial instability only causes his father (Pepe Novoa) and sister (Josefina Viton) to further their devotion of the local fish factory, he judges his family for selling out to the power system.
Through his first feature film, Director Diego Yaker not only addresses the state of Argentina’s economy, but also how it affects communities on a more personal level. With the unfair practices of the town’s major job source, neighbors become enemies and familial happiness turns to disdain. Besides the issue of industrialization, Yaker emphasizes the relationship between father and son. After receiving the means to fulfill his dream of traveling to Barcelona, Diego slowly begins to realize that his new reality is not what he had imagined. As his morals and disposition rapidly spiral downwards, Diego and his father seem to switch positions in their relationship. Diego’s naïve hopefulness is shattered by bitter reality while his father learns how to dream once again.
Amidst such thought provoking themes and deep relationships are several distasteful sex scenes that seem more characteristic of a cheesy soap opera. In one moment, Diego’s father, Enrique, and his old friend have a falling out over the riots, while in the next, Diego pimps out his late grandfather’s legacy for a few minutes of raunchy face sucking. The musical score also serves as a distraction from the relevance of the film. Rather than adding to the dramatic ambience needed for this piece, it was as if the blooper-reel accidentally found its way onto the final cut.
As one of the final features of UCI’s Latin American Film Festival, “Como Mariposas en La Luz” conveys an important message of transition—how it affects the economy, the community and one’s hope for greater things. Like a butterfly flying too close to the light, Diego finds himself inevitably getting burned by his stubborn attraction. While it can be said that Yaker’s infusion of multiple themes overpowers his vision, it can also be proposed that the complexity of his film is an intricate picture of real life.
By Ara Demirjian
If one glances at “Super Amigos,” one might immediately recall the image of a chubby Jack Black adorned in a tight suit as a gringo luchador in “Nacho Libre.” Yet, in this exceedingly authentic and realistic 2007 documentary by Arturo Perez Torres, a Canada-based Mexican director, the super amigos (Super Barrio, Super Gay, Super Animal, Super Ecologista, and Fray Tormenta) take their aggression outside the ring into the streets of Mexico City. They fight against social injustices such as homophobia and mistreatment of the impoverished as well as issues of pollution and animal rights.
While it isn’t an outright comedy by any means, “Super Amigos” contains a fair amount of comedic flair with its witty dialogue and interwoven comic-book segues that keep the film emotionally light and engaging. This is best seen when Super Ecologista goes to a local Wal-Mart and unsuspectingly hands out “yellow cards” to individuals buying natural Christmas trees, trying to convince them that this environmentally unfriendly practice will taint their conscience. Hilarity ensues when Super Animal, along with other animal rights activists, protests the killing of bulls outside a bullfighting stadium, opting to challenge the toreros to a duel, insisting that they “don’t have the balls to face up to him.”
However, at its very core, “Super Amigos” is an important dissection of Mexican society as these masked characters tackle serious, globally relevant issues. Although Torres’ borderline “Borat”-esque documentary style often casts the characters in a humorous and externally deceptive light, he takes the occasional moment to get into the minds of the super amigos in a one-on-one setting, revealing an honest, selfless side to the characters.
The film’s credibility lies in the fact that the luchadores are not substance lacking, physically chiseled superhero wannabes blindly going out in public to save the world with no reasonable intent or purpose. These are regular, believable individuals, as evidenced by Super Barrio’s pot belly. They also happen to be well-educated activists (some for over 20 years) that have a specific aim to bring pressing national concerns to the forefront and transform Mexican society for the better. The luchador mask simply serves as a highly respected national iconic symbol to help rally Mexican citizens in the fight for change, a mere façade for what is more important.
With “Super Amigos,” Torres successfully shows the cultural significance and national prominence of the luchador and its integration into the realm of activism, demonstrating how this fusion can positively translate into social improvement.